City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
This week, the New York Department of Health released information regarding their surveillance efforts in Saratoga County for ticks testing positive for tick-borne illnesses. Of the 2,700 ticks collected for testing in 2017, 22 ticks from five locations, tested positive for Powassan, including ticks collected at Saratoga National Historical Park.
The Powassan virus is a rare viral disease that can cause symptoms ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to life threatening encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The disease remains extremely rare in New York State with only 26 confirmed cases since 2000. Only three confirmed human cases of Powassan virus have been identified in New York State this year, all located in Saratoga County.
The Department of Health plans to continue their surveillance and testing in the fall with the collection of adult ticks from many of the same sites, as well as collection and testing of blood from hunter-killed deer for previous exposure to Powassan. Additional education programs for hunters, school districts, and libraries will be developed through various state offices.
The Center for Disease Control advises people to use insect repellent when going outside. Walking in the center of trails and avoiding high grass and brush at trail edges will also reduce your chances of encountering ticks. Check for ticks daily on yourself, your children, and your pets and shower soon after being outdoors. If you do find an attached tick, carefully remove with fine point tweezers and watch for symptoms. Consult with your doctor if any symptoms arise.
For more information about tick safety and tick-borne illnesses, see the CDC’s website on ticks: www.cdc.gov/ticks. -
Public Hearing Sept. 5 to Amend Street Performer Ordinance
A Public Hearing will take place 6:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at City Hall - just prior to the council’s next scheduled meeting - to amend the Street Performer ordinance, which regulates street performers and was originally adopted in 2015. (That ordinance may be viewed here: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/documentcenter/view/2595 ). Assistant City Attorney Tony Izzo is currently crafting the amendment.
The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. during which the council may take action regarding the acquisition of property by the use of eminent domain as it relates to the proposed Geyser Road Trail.
City Approves 2018-2023 Capital Budget
The Council voted 4 -1 to approve the city’s six-year Capital Budget Program, which counts 26 projects at a cost of $11 million – nearly all of it to be bonded - for the year 2018.
Madigan voted against the measure, consistent with a r stance she has taken in previous years, explaining that she feels the Commissioner of Finance needs to have flexibility regarding the budget as the city operates under a 2 percent tax cap, and that the budget has an impact on the property tax rate.
The costliest project, ranked #14 on the 2018 priority list, recommends $3 million be set aside for the design and construction of an East Side Fire and EMS facility. The public safety project has long been on the city’s radar as a supplement to its two other existing stations, which are located near downtown Saratoga Springs, and on the city’s west side. Land has not yet been acquired for the land necessary for the project. “To require to bond for this is premature,” Madigan noted.
The two other seven-digit cost proposals for 2018 are capital improvements of the Kaydeross Avenue West Pipe - a $1.2 million DPW request - and the addition of a radio tower in the city, which ranks number 1 overall on the project list and calls for $1.3 million to be bonded.
The water pipe upgrade indicates that the water mains on Route 9 and Nelson Avenue Extension are undergoing “severe external corrosion,” according to the Department of Public Works, which proposes a four-year program be implemented to replace the main and “avoid catastrophic failure.” The city has approximately 150 miles of municipal water mains – about 20 miles of which in the core of the city is comprised of cast iron pipe more than a century old and is in need of replacement, according to the DPW.
The radio tower project signifies efforts by the Public Safety Department and the Safety Committee to correct significant communication deficiencies in the city's emergency communications systems and existing “life safety issues” that currently exist with community emergency communications, according to the DPS. The roof of the Stonequist Apartments complex is under consideration as a potential location to site the tower.
Spa Solar Park Gets its Day in the Sun
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced the 2.5-megawatt solar array, The Spa Solar Park, will be fully energized this week. A public ribbon-cutting ceremony and community celebration is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 12 – time to be determined – at the site on the city’s landfill. “This has been a long time coming,” Madigan told the council this week.
The City received support for the Spa Solar Park development from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) through the Governor’s NY-Sun Competitive PV Program. The landfill is city-owned property with otherwise limited use. The project is environmentally sound. The solar panels will be sufficient to match approximately 40 percent of the city’s energy requirements.
City Receives $2.3 Million VLT Aid
In her submission to the council of the city’s Second Quarter Financial Report of 2017, Madigan noted VLT aid was received June 30 and represents full payment for the year. The $2,325,592 received in 2017 was equal to the amount received the previous year.
Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced the Public Safety Department will host a Public Safety Forum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the City Council Room at City Hall.
Friday, Aug. 25 – matchbox twenty, Counting Crows at SPAC.
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Luke Bryan at SPAC.
Aug. 27 - Caffè Lena at SPAC: Let's Be Leonard (1 p.m.); Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers (2:30 p.m.); Soul Inscribed (4 p.m.) – Gazebo Stage at SPAC, free.
Aug. 30 – Sting at SPAC.
Sept. 2 – Zac Brown Band at SPAC.
Sept. 12 – Boz Scaggs at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Sept. 15 to 17 – Fresh Grass at Mass Moca featuring Bill Frisell, the Suitcase Junket, The Mammals and others.
Sept. 16 – Irish 2000 Festival at Saratoga County Fairgrounds featuring Hair of the Dog, The McKrells, and others.
Sept. 19 - The Rochmon Record Club presents the classic 1976 album “Hotel California” by the Eagles at Caffe’ Lena.
Sept. 23 – Roger Waters at the Times Union Center, Albany.
Oct. 8 – Psychedelic Furs at Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park.
Oct. 8 – Stephen Stills, Judy Collins at The Egg, Albany.
Oct. 13 – Lisa Fischer at The Egg, Albany.
Oct. 28 – Loudon Wainwright III at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Oct. 29 – Renaissance at The Egg, Albany.
Nov. 4 – Cowboy Junkies at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Nov. 8-9 – King Crimson at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Nov. 14 – The Beach Boys at Proctors, Schenectady.
Nov. 17 – David Crosby at The Egg, Albany.
Nov. 18 – Ashley Bathgate at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Dec. 1 – Richard Thompson at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Dec. 27 – Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Times Union Center, Albany.
*Note: not all shows listed have officially been confirmed.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The skies were clear and the temperature a comfortable 60 degrees last Saturday when Travelin’ Soldier suffered an injury training at Saratoga. Returning to the barn lame, X-rays were ordered and revealed a fractured leg. The horse was euthanized and marked the 17th equine death at the Spa this summer – the largest number in any one summer meet dating back to when records started being kept on such things in 2009, according to datany.com, which publishes reports regarding equine accidents and deaths.
There doesn’t appear to be any definitive pattern, weather-related or otherwise, to the 17 equine deaths at Saratoga this year, which are pretty evenly distributed among horses in the act of training and those racing.
The highest previous death total during the summer meet at Saratoga was 16 – which occurred in both 2016 and in 2012, followed by 15 horse deaths in 2015. The lowest was nine, which occurred in 2011. The nine-year total at Saratoga Race Course, to date, numbers 121 equine fatalities. An additional 29 have occurred during that same period at the harness track.
Quick to respond this week were the New York State Gaming Commission, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) with an announcement that additional equine health and safety measures will be immediately implemented at Saratoga Race Course.
The actions will include increased regulatory veterinary presence at the track during training hours, state-of-the-art monitoring of horses, and comprehensive trainer education intended to share scientific findings of the types of injuries that occur at state Thoroughbred racetracks. Risk and protective factors that can help prevent injury will also be part of that trainer education.
“Our goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero, and we have taken many productive steps toward reaching that goal over the past four years,” said New York State Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer, in a statement. “The Commission, as it does with every equine fatality on the grounds of a track in New York State, is actively investigating the circumstances of each incident at Saratoga Race Course.”
Track surfaces, individual horse risk factors, exercise history and past performances will be closely scrutinized, Palmer added. “Pending the findings of this investigation, we will do whatever is necessary to prevent such injuries in the future.”
Over the past four years, NYRA has implemented reforms and made significant investments to improve track surface conditions and upgrade equipment, provide vets with more authority to monitor thoroughbred health, and establish committees to oversee safety measures, said NYRA Safety Steward Hugh Gallagher.
The number of catastrophic injuries during races occurring on NYRA tracks has been reduced by nearly 50 percent since 2013 as a result of those reforms, Gallagher said. “We remain focused on continuously improving the safety of our racing operations. To that end, we are exploring the possibility of opening the main track for training to horsemen earlier in the year.”
It was also noted that NYRA’s catastrophic injury rate vs. the Jockey Club National Average – which was above the industry average in 2012 - has since dropped, and remains below the industry average, according to the latest reports in 2016.
The Commission and its partners will discuss ongoing aftercare initiatives 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at Empire State College, 111 West Ave. The event is open to the public and will provide horse trainers, owners, connections and the public the opportunity to learn about the importance of retiring a horse before it suffers an injury. The many options for retirement and aftercare in New York will also be discussed.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Architectural renderings were released this week depicting the proposed exterior design of Universal Preservation Hall. Renovation work is expected to get underway at the historic Washington Street building in October, with a grand re-opening anticipated during the first quarter of 2019.
Constructed in 1871, the Victorian Gothic structure has served as a staging ground for everyone from Teddy Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass to Bruce Springsteen E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.
A century after its construction, the building began to fall into disrepair and in 2000, the city condemned the building. Members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition. Today, the nonprofit group UPH owns the building and in 2015 got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors. The Schenectady based organization will lend their expertise in securing programming and coordinating ticket sales and marketing,
When it reopens, UPH will provide an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round experience with a capacity of 700-plus people, said UPH Campaign Director Teddy Foster. The building will feature new heating and air conditioning systems, a kitchen, an elevator and new light and sound fixtures with acoustic treatments.
New entry doors will be set on the building’s Broadway facing-side to provide theater-goers close proximity to a multi-level public parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue and the main room’s flexibility will allow for the relocation of seats as events dictate.
Once completed, it is anticipated UPH will stage approximately 200 events annually, and fill the city’s void of a year-round, mid-sized venue that has been absent since Saratoga’s 5,000-seat Convention Hall went up in a fireball in 1966.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following a year of preparation and three days of workshops, seminars, networking sessions and informational panels, Dan Tordjman was appreciating some well-deserved down-time on Wednesday, a day after wrapping up the first-ever Equestricon, which was staged Aug. 13-15 at the City Center.
The convention, billed as “the largest program schedule assembled for any fan event in the history of horse racing,” pretty much matched up with organizers’ expectations, explained the event’s co-founder.
“What we were trying to prove was that there was an appetite for this kind event - a fan base in horse racing interested in learning more about the game, and an industry interested in meeting face-to-face with potential customers,” Tordjman said. “I think we were able to do that.“
The ebb and flow of visitors during event days on Sunday and Monday - as people made their way between the racecourse and the City Center - was augmented by the convention’s largest gathering on Tuesday, when the track goes dark, he said.
For Tordjman, Tuesday’s highlight was the fan-friendly experience which posed attendees for photographs alongside the Kentucky Derby trophy and served as a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). “One of the most indelible moments was when someone from PDJF came on and could barely get one word out before they broke down crying and thanking us for doing it,” he enthused.
The crowd of approximately 1,000 people registered to attend in advance of the convention were supplemented by a free-flow of visitors attending independent events, many of whom had come from out-of-state and were visiting Saratoga for the first time.
“I think Saratoga has been on a bucket list for a lot of people and with Equestricon happening this year, they figured this was the time to make the trip,” said Tordjman, who credited the city for its hospitality – “they rolled out the red carpet for us” - and added that “everything is on the table” regarding Equestricon’s future staging ground. A formal announcement is expected “in a month or two,” although he anticipated a probable return to Saratoga Springs in 2018.
Monday was punctuated by a keynote address regarding horse aftercare by longtime journalist Soledad O’Brien, who has worked as a correspondent for Al Jazeera America, produced documentaries for CNN, and runs the Starfish Media Group production company.
“One of the things I see analogous between the stories I report and the thoroughbreds I had the opportunity to adopt over the years is that in every story people want to work. They want good valued work, (and) horses, like people, like to work. You like to feel that you’ve accomplished something. They like to be run and exercised and walked – and get treats, too,” said O’Brien during a morning presser attended by more than a dozen credentialed photojournalists, print journalists, TV news camera operators and one millennial who aimed a smart phone at the speaker and announced, “I’m Facebooking-it live,” to anyone who cared to listen. Outside in the main hall dozens of Equestricon staffers wore black T-shirts emblazoned with yellow stencils that read: Ask Me Anything.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have three off-the-track racehorses, I would have said, ‘You have lost your mind,’” O’Brien explained. “I thought: racehorses are hot, somewhat crazy, and you would certainly never put a child on a racehorse.” That assumption was not accurate, she learned.
“My husband and I got into getting horses from aftercare about 10 years ago and we were completely and utterly surprised at how successful it’s been. We went to the aftercare facility and every single stereotype we thought we knew about retired racehorses coming off the track wasn’t true,” O’Brien said. “Over the years we have had three retired racehorses, and a bunch of other horses - different breeds - and there’s no difference between them. They do the same things our other horses do.”
O’Brien, who calls herself “a mediocre-to-average rider who just loves horses,” said the racehorses have smoothly transitioned into great new jobs, retrained as jumpers and specified one in particular, whose name is “Joey” as being her young daughter’s favorite.
“We got him off the track and a couple of days later we were riding him. He’s got the sweetest disposition. At the end of the day, those stereotypes were certainly not true and I think that was my biggest learning curve, recognizing the opportunity with these horses that needed new homes and new jobs.”
Mike Wolf and Frank Fritz, the respective faces of the History Channel series “American Pickers,” will be filming episodes of the show across New York in September and are looking for leads of large, private collections or an accumulation of antiques that they can spend the better part of the day picking through.
The documentary series features the travels of Wolf and Fritz as they journey the country’s back roads from coast-to-coast, antique-picking on a mission to recycle forgotten relics, meeting often-entertaining characters along the way and learning something new about America’s buried past.
Beginning on Saturday Aug. 19, residential, business and wireless customers within the existing 518 area code must add the “518” prefix to existing 7-digit local telephone numbers.
Last September, the state Public Service Commission approved a new area code to be added to the current 518 area code region to ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers. The 518 region serves all or part of the 17 counties in eastern upstate New York, including Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Warren and Washington counties.
The addition of the numbers serves as an introduction of a new 838 area code that will be “overlaid,” or superimposed, over the same geographic area as the 518 area code. Current telephone numbers, including current area code, will not change. However, all calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10-digit phone numbers.
Beginning Sept. 19, customers in the 518 area code region requesting new service, an additional line, or a move in the location of their service, may be assigned a number in the new 838 area code.
The price of a call, and the price of other telephone services, will not change due to the new overlay area code. Calls to reach 911 Emergency Service will remain three digits, and existing 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 services will also remain three-digit dial numbers.
The Commission recommends that customers identify their telephone number as a 10-digit number (area code + 7-digit local telephone number) when giving the number to friends, family members, business associates and others.
Furthermore, the Commission recommends customers ensure that all services, automatic dialing equipment, applications, software, or other types of equipment recognize the new 838 area code as a valid area code. Some examples are: life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, and similar functions. Business stationery, advertising materials, personal checks, and personal or pet ID tags should include the area code.
All calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10- digits and the digit prefix “1” must be included for all calls to other area codes.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Horses and the Hudson Valley Guns N’ Hoses – area baseball teams comprised of regional fire fighters and law enforcement officers – will take to the field 7 p.m. Saturday Aug. 19 for a game at East Side Recreation Park on Lake Avenue, in a benefit for the family State Police trooper Joel R. Davis. Admission is $10.
The 36-year-old trooper was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute on July 9 in Jefferson County. Davis is survived by his wife and three children, according to state Police.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - A special guest appearance by Boston Red Sox baseball legend David Ortiz will be among the highlights of this year’s Saratoga Wine and Food Festival on Sept. 8- 9.
The sports star, known affectionately to his fans as “Big Papi,” will participate in Friday’s Fired Up! event as well as two smaller gatherings on Friday evening, spotlighting his new line of cigars and Arias wine.
“He is not only a baseball hero, he is someone whose life and career have been an inspiration to millions of people.” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “We are proud that such an outstanding and beloved public figure and role model will play a part in this year’s festival and gratified that a portion of the proceeds from his VIP appearances will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, an organization that supports lifesaving pediatric care for children in need.”
Ortiz recently launched a line of wines with the local Ianniello & DeCrescente families. "Arias" is named after David’s mother, Angela Rosa Arias, who tragically lost her life in a car crash in 2002. The multi-colored wine label illustrates two hands raised with index fingers pointing upwards, a salute Ortiz often made to his mother after hitting a home run and now is a symbol to encourage the human spirit to rise against adversity. The Arias portfolio includes a merlot, chardonnay, cabernet and sauvignon blanc.
He has also introduced a cigar line, "Big Papi David Ortiz Cigars,” crafted by "El Artista Cigars" based out of the Dominican Republic. Its band displays a red silhouette of Big Papi also pointing upward, as in his post-home run stance.
Ortiz will headline a 7 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. meet/greet and photo signing for 100 Fired Up! ticketholders who donate a minimum of $50 or more per person to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund; brief remarks to all Fired Up! guests in the main tent, followed by a video presentation on the Children’s Fund; and a 90-minute “Big Papi’s Arias Wine & Cigar Bar” experience for 100 people that will take place in the Hall of Springs Jazz Bar from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from each event will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, a charity which funds pediatric services for children in New England and the Dominican Republic.
Presented annually at the end of its classical season, the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival is an epicurean showcase featuring two days of gourmet events showcasing fine international wines, innovative chef-prepared menus, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars, expansive tastings, upscale auctions and a luxury auto show. Held under elegant tents on SPAC’s lawn, the weekend is anchored by three events: an Adirondack Road Tour and Luncheon; Friday’s Fired Up! Grill Competition and Saturday’s Grand Tasting and Concours D’Elegance, the festival centerpiece. Presented in partnership with the Saratoga Automobile Museum, proceeds from the festival benefit education programming at SPAC and the Museum.
A featured event at Saturday’s Grand Tasting will be the final round of SPAC’s “Home Rangers” Amateur Chef Competition, which includes a cook-off between the competition’s amateur chef finalist and BlueStar celebrity chef Melissa Doney. Chef Doney was a competitor on Season 8 of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen hosted by Gordon Ramsey.
Among the judges for the final round will be BlueStar All Star Chef Jay Hajj and Ariana Philips, editor of Food Network magazine. Chef Suvir Saran, an accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator as well as a farmer who specializes in bringing Indian cooking to the American kitchen will be the final judge.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 8: Adirondack Road Tour & Gourmet Luncheon | 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This spirited 1 ½ hour, professionally-led road rally for auto collectors winds through beautiful Adirondack roads to finish at the historic Lake George Club, where a delicious cocktail reception and three course wine-paired luncheon will be served. Event price: $100.
Fired Up! Grill Competition featuring Special Guest David Ortiz| 7 -10 p.m. Chefs from the Capital Region’s finest restaurants will battle it out for the FIRED UP! title as guests enjoy great music, gourmet food, BBQ, a cold refreshing Stella Artois, wines and spirits. The event is held under an oversized tent on SPAC’s lawn. Event price: $85
David Ortiz Meet and Greet | 7 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. This opportunity will be available to the first 100 people who purchase a specially priced Fired Up! ticket of $135, which includes a $50 donation to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Event price: $135
“Big Papi’s Arias Wine & Cigar Bar” | 8:30 p.m. -10 p.m. David Ortiz will host a VIP experience for 100 people that will take place in the Hall of Springs Jazz Bar from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event will feature an opportunity to mingle with the baseball legend and other guests while enjoying Arias wines, gourmet hors d’oeuvres and cigars. All of the guests will receive an autographed bottle of Arias. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Event price: $175
SATURDAY, SEPT. 9: Grand Tasting and Concours D’Elegance, noon – 4 p.m. All guests will have the opportunity to savor exquisite foods created by more than 20 chefs in the Capital Region; a mystery wall, and cocktails, wine and beer. In addition, The Saratoga Automobile Museum will present a show of luxury collector cars including classes of Shelby Cobra, Porsche, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, among others. Event price: $85. A VIP Grant Tasting ticket, which allows earlier entry to the Grand Tasting and exclusive access to the VIP area, is available for $175.
The Saratoga Wine and Food Festival is Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s primary fundraiser for its educational programming, including Classical Kids, a collaborative program in which SPAC works with local schools to teach elementary and middle school aged children about the classical performing arts.
Tickets to the festival and more information about the complete festival schedule are available at spac.org; by calling 518-584-9330; or in person at the SPAC Box Office.